/ Photography

How neutral tones unlock believable edits and convey drama

What makes a landscape image believable? In case you missed it, we just wrapped up a two-part vlog series on neutral tones. Neutral tones are desaturated subjects the viewer expects to be grayscale, like clouds, fog, water, snow and architecture.

Once you’ve identified the sources of neutrals, you can take an impressive amount of creative liberty with your landscapes. There are two opposing strategies you can apply:

  1. Carefully avoid altering the neutral tones, but freely correct and enhance vibrant colors throughout the image.
  2. Intentionally alter the neutral tones to convey weather, temperature and time of day while leaving the rest of the color palette alone.

In both strategies, the neutral tones serve to anchor the rest of the color palette.

1. Avoid altering the neutral tones

While the vibrant colors in a sunset can be pushed far past their natural saturation before the image falls apart, it takes little adjustment to a neutral tone before the image becomes jarring. That’s because we have preconceptions of how neutral tones should appear, so even the slightest change has incredible influence over the mood of the scene.

Conversely, an image without neutral tones at all may look fake or unbalanced.

2. Intentionally alter neutral tones

In direct opposition, you can alter neutral tones to convey environmental factors without disturbing the beautiful color palette throughout the rest of the image. A tiny change to only neutral tones will introduce an exponential amount of mood into your image that no amount of saturation or contrast could otherwise infuse!

In particular, altering only the neutral tones helps convey environmental factors like the weather, temperature and time of day.

Make sure to check out the full write-up on Digital Photography School for more ways to leverage neutral tones in your photography. Don’t forget to subscribe to the Yellowscale YouTube channel to keep up with new digital nomad, travel and landscape photography tips!

Jonathan Lee Martin

Jonathan Lee Martin

Globetrotting digital nomad and fine art landscape photographer in Atlanta. Working remotely as a developer + international trainer, scaling mountains at twilight to discover non-touristy landscapes.

Read More